Day Thirty – Saturday, July 22
School on a Saturday in the summer… let’s take a second to consider that 😦 This morning we had two hours of normal classes (all nsliy programs are 120 language hours so they had to add some extra instruction time). Afterwards, we had an extremely long Chinese opera lesson, given by a supposedly “famous” opera instructor from Shenzhen. I was not too into sacrificing one of my weekend days for school and opera, but in the end it wasn’t so bad.
The time between when our Chinese classes ended and lunch started was brutal – my head was bobbing because I had to keep myself from falling asleep. The instructor was talking to us about the history of Chinese opera and the different roles… completely in Chinese. We had a translator to help us, but most of what she said was very specific and too hard to translate; most of us had no clue what she was saying for the majority of it. We learned a few lines from the play. Chinese opera sounds very different than western ones; the voices are extremely high pitched and make sharp, chirpy noises (not long high notes like aahhhh). Listening to the performers was actually pretty comical because of how high and weird their voices sounded!
After a quick lunch from the one open window at the canteen (everything else is closed for the summer), we returned to practice the movements and singing/speaking of the words. Once again, it was a comical sight seeing the guys from our program imitate the high sounds. Next came the best part – stage makeup. Chinese opera performers put on a ton of light pink and white oils and powder to give them “white face.” We all had makeup available to us and put in on ourselves following their model. I just went for it, knowing I’d never get to experience this again. At least five layers of different oils and powders went into my face to make me look extremely pale. I also put on red and black “eyeliner” (paint) around my eyes and eyebrows. I had the pros help me out a lot, and Matthew also did a lot of my makeup because he didn’t do it himself. My makeup actually came out looking pretty good, but others (@Josh) came out looking like the Joker. The whole opera was a fun and hilarious experience!
This evening, a bunch of us we’re off to a night market that had lots of cool street food and gift vendors. We were able to navigate our way there on the bus alone (no language partners) and asked locals how to get to the heart of the market. Even though we still obviously look like foreigners, I don’t think we seem like tourists anymore. At the market we split into a couple groups to explore. First, I went with Alec, Abigale, and Rich to this super cool alley that had a ton of clothes and souvenirs for sale (great place to buy cheap gifts and practice bargaining). Later, Anthony and I went off on our own and had great fried jiao zi. I then showed him down the cool shopping street. We think it’s so funny because when it’s just us, people here think we are locals (he’s full Vietnamese and I’m half Chinese). It’s a very different experience being Asian American on this program – people don’t assume you are 外国人(foreigners) so they speak as if you know fluent Chinese. It’s hard because once they realize our Chinese is poor, they seem immediately confused. But it’s great because when we are just walking we don’t get any stares or weird looks like most of our group gets.
Here is my take on safety in China. Coming on this program, I had this stereotypical impression that China is not the safest country and that I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking around or using the bus alone. I think a lot of Americans have this impression that certain countries (a lot of Asian ones) aren’t safe for a young woman to live in/visit. I’ve found this mindset to be completely false. Currently, it’s 9:15 at night (very dark out aside from street lights) and I’m going home via bus – alone. In most Americans cities, I would feel a little uneasy or even on edge about taking public transit alone at night. But here, I don’t even blink an eye at the thought of walking to places or using public transit alone. Remember that I can’t even really speak the local language! Granted Zhuhai is one of the safest and most livable cities in China, I still believe that I would feel safe going alone in other places.